An easy trek that takes you to one of the most beautiful views in India. The Bhagirathi River is considered the source of the Ganges and the trek follows it to the Gaumukh Glacier. Many pilgrims believe that visiting Gaumukh Glacier is an important part of their pilgrimage to the Ganges’ holy sites. For the full story and all of our pictures, click here.
When to trek: The best time to trek is before or after monsoon season which is June and Sept to the end of October
What to bring – In addition to the usual hiking and camping equipment be sure to bring: warm clothing, warm sleeping bag (can get to -15°C at night)
Do I need a guide – For almost all multi-day treks in Uttarakhand you require a guide. For this trek you don’t need a guide to get to the toe of Gaumukh Glacier, but you do to go up the Tapovan meadow. There are many guiding companies in Uttarakeshi, but make sure your contract on services and costs are clear. Our company tried to double our fee when we returned to town saying that they missed a few expenses in their quote. You can also hire trekking guides in Rishikesh, but the costs will include transportation for guide and equipment.
Getting to Uttarakeshi – there are many local buses that leave every hour from the Rishikesh bus station. It’s a long 7 hours on a bumpy, mountain road to Uttarakeshi.
Getting to Gangotri – If you don’t hire a guide, there are many jeeps and share-jeeps at the jeep stand in Uttarakeshi’s. The jeep stand is a few blocks west of the bus station and will cost 1500Rs. If you use a guiding company, they will arrange jeep rides both ways. The drive is 3 – 4 hours.
Getting to Rishikesh from Gangotri – If not organized by your guiding company, there are usually plenty of jeeps waiting at the entrance to Gangotri. Then you can catch a local bus to Rishikesh from the bus station.
Note, this is not the same Tapovan as on the Kuari Pass Trek.
Do I need a permit – You do need a permit to trek to Tapovan Meadow. The fee in 2018 was 600Rs for foreigners.
• We did this trek at the end of October 2018. It was comfortable trekking weather during the day and very cold at night (-10 to -15°C)
• Trekking times listed below do not include breaks
There are other treks that can be continued passed Tapovan meadow, the trekking season is early to mid-October due to snow.
Day 1 Gangotri (3050m) to Chirbasa (3600m), 2 hrs 30 min, Ascend 550m
The trek leaves from a marked stairway half way through Gangotri. After 15 minutes you reach the park check-in. From there it is an easy walk, gaining 550m in 2 ½ hours. There are views of Gangotri 1 from the start of the trek and then views of the beautiful Bhagirathi 1, 2, 3 at the end of the valley. There are often many dhabas (rugged tea shops) along the trail, but by late October most had closed for the season. Chirbasa is below the trail from the dhabas in an open meadow with amazing views down the valley of Bhagirathi 1, 2, 3.
Day 2 Chirbasa (3600m) to Bhojbasa(3790m), 1hr 21min,Ascend 190m
A short day that continues along the same easy trail with improving views of Bhagirathi and North Meru.
This campsite is typically busier and has 3 or 4 ashrams and a government hostel. Most need to be booked well in advance. Days 1 and 2 can be combined for a 14km day, but most trekking guides break it into 2 days.
Day 3 Bhojbasa (3790m) to Tapovan Meadow (4340m) and return, 5hrs, Ascend 550m)
The trail continues for 45 min on the same good trail with your first views of Shivling until you reach a shrine of Shiva lingams. After the shrine you have to cross a boulder field for 20 minutes until you can see the toe of Gaumukh Glacier and the exit point of the Bhagirathi River. Above we could see the two mountains of Shivling and Bhagirathi. Our main objective though was to reach the meadow of Tapovan which is above the glacier. Our guide tried to make us cross the river over ice and snow covered rocks. He said the trail was on the other side up a steep, loose gully with a lot of rock fall. We didn’t believe him and think he was trying to get us to turn around. Instead we followed the well-marked, but rugged trail across the glacier which went over large boulders, glacier ice and small crevasses. The final stage was to hike up to the top of the ridge. It was a steep 300m climb but when were reached the top, the view is breathtaking. Tapovan meadow has an unbelievable 360° view of the most gorgeous granite spires towering above. There are a few sadhu run dhabas on the meadow where you can stop for tea, or even stay for the night.
The trail down was very steep, and it took almost as long to get down to the glacier as it did going up. We walked all the way back to the jeeps that were waiting in Gangotri enjoying the views from the valley once more. We drove back to Uttarakeshi in the same day arriving around 4pm.
For more of our treks click here, or go directly to Kuari Pass (Uttarakhand), Hampta Pass (Himachal Pradesh), Great Lakes Trek (Kashmir), Markha Valley Trek (Ladakh), Hidden Valley Trek (Ladakh), Phuktal Trek (Zanskar), Everest 3 Passes Trek (Nepal), Manaslu Circuit (Nepal), Upper Mustang Trek (Nepal), Jumolhari Yaksa Trek (Bhutan), Kalaw to Inle Trek (Myanmar), Pinnacles Trek (Borneo), Carstenz Pyramid (Indonesia).
For pictures from Richard’s Everest summit click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFmsecd6yN0